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Dispatch from the Road: The Great Solar Eclipse of 2024

By Jeff Callahan

The weather looked grim for the Eclipse on Monday, April 8, but my friend Brandi was game for the long drive. We had other little adventures planned along the way, so despite the clouds, we went.  

We spent the night of April 7 in a fleabag hotel in Memphis. It rained hard overnight. The next morning, Eclipse Day, we looked out and the sun was dawning clear through thin cloud. So we proceeded across the flat foggy expanse of Arkansas to the target town I had picked out: Batesville, right on the centerline of the zone of totality.  

A little public park on the White River was a perfect spot. The sun was brilliant in a cloudless sky — surprise!  We set up and waited and talked to dozens of other folks who had also made the trip.  

I shot a few pictures through my hydrogen alpha telescope, which strains the sunlight through a filter so narrow that only one wavelength gets through. The emission of the hydrogen molecule, which the sun has a LOT of, allows direct observation. In each photo you can see the moon pass in front of the sun at a different point of the eclipse. The things sticking out of the crescent sun are solar prominences many times larger than the entire Earth.

The whole experience was incredible. At the moment of totality, mourning doves began to coo in the trees and Jupiter and Venus were easily visible in the darkened sky. It went from thin light to dark in two seconds. The moon’s shadow could be seen approaching at totality and the sky looked like a storm was coming…very dark. At Batesville we had over four minutes of gobsmacked spectacle. 

It was worth driving 600 miles!

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